Hospital chief executive: Why I’m worried about people’s mental health during lockdown

PUBLISHED: 16:02 05 November 2020 | UPDATED: 16:02 05 November 2020

Nick Hulme, chief executive of ESNEFT, said the trust is prepared for the winter Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Nick Hulme, chief executive of ESNEFT, said the trust is prepared for the winter Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN


Ipswich and Colchester hospitals’ chief executive has said people’s mental health is his “major concern” during the second coronavirus lockdown.

Hospitals across the UK are expected to be under intense pressure in the coming weeks, with rising admissions from growing numbers of cases.

Speaking at a board meeting of East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), which runs the hospitals, Mr Hulme said staff were in a better position to deal with the second wave.

However, he said: “As we enter a second lockdown, my major concern is for the mental health of our population and indeed for our staff.

“I think with the first lockdown there was a degree of adrenaline, dare I say excitement, the weather was different, the evenings were longer, and it was warmer.

“I think given the weather, given that people are tired and frustrated and from what I’m seeing in my interactions with people whether professionally or personally, there is a greater degree of frustration.

“I think we are really mindful that people are going through a really tough time. 
“For our staff some of them will be experiencing a triple whammy of more pressure at work, more pressure at home because of lockdown, with their social life being curtailed.

“It’s a time that I am so pleased that we have taken the decision to invest so significantly in the mental health and wellbeing of our staff.”

Mr Hulme said more than 2,000 Covid-19 tests are now being carried out on site, with stockpiles of PPE also built up.

The trust will also continue outpatient services - a stark difference from the first lockdown, when many were cancelled.

He added: “We have a much more robust PPE supply chain now we have built good stock piles nationally and that was a real risk in March.

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“It means a significantly reduced risk of delays in testing and a significantly reduced risk of running out of PPE, but the challenging side is that we are trying to maintain as many fields as we possibly can for our communities.

Future plans are also taking shape for mass staff testing and vaccinations, when they come available.

Mr Hulme said that as testing technology improves, the trust aims to conduct asymptomatic testing on all staff.

“We are starting to think about mass asymptomatic testing of staff. This is a national agenda and we are waiting for new technology where saliva can be used,” he said.

“We will also be looking at the infrastructure in place for mass vaccination as and when it becomes available, there isn’t any firm indication of that yet.

“Public vaccination is likely not to be available into the new year, if the spring, some indication there may be vaccine available to vulnerable groups and health and social care staff in a shorter time period.”

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